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04/13/11 Ubisoft
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04/13/11 Ubisoft

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Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (X360)

By Rainbird 23rd May 2011 | 4,068 views 

Fighting with the bravery of a unicorn.

If you are familiar with Heroes of Might and Magic, I can tell you that Clash of Heroes fits into the timeline as a prequel to Heroes of Might and Magic V, and you will be seeing a few familiar faces. If, however, you do not have any experience with the franchise, I can guarantee you that you will not feel left out with this game, as it easily stands as a great stand alone experience, whether you are playing the campaign or the multiplayer.

In the game, you follow five young heroes in their stand against a coming demon invasion and the deceit that is keeping their nations blind to the truth. It takes a few hours before the story really starts to get interesting, but you will be glad that you follow it through to the end. In many ways, the story is quite straight forward, but this is really a good thing. It is common for video games today to have stories filled with intricacies and shades of grey, so it's nice to play a game where the bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. This way you don't need to worry about whether you are doing the right thing, who you should trust and so on, which feels like a bit of a relief. It is also a lighthearted story, filled with charm and with humor sprinkled lightly all over the world. 
An example of the storytelling in the game.

Developer Capy has done a great job in marrying the story to the right art and sound, because it all comes together very well. The art is both charming, while being something you can easily take seriously, and the soundtrack is good at getting some intensity and action into the gameplay. It is a great feat that Capy has struck an almost perfect balance between how much storytelling and gameplay there should be, and when the game should be witty and charming instead of being serious. The story never gets in the way of the game and vice versa, and the mood always feels spot on.

Having great visuals, great sound and a great story will only get a game so far though. Fortunately, the gameplay is very good as well.

The battles are the main gameplay mechanic, and consist of a mix of strategy and puzzle elements. Outside the battles, you will be moving around small open environments, where you have to move between marked spaces. This might sound like a deal breaker, but it is really not that important, because it lends itself well to the overall design of the game. You face enemies in one on one battles, where you have the bottom half of the screen and the enemy has the top half. Each of you then get units spawned on your respective sides in a random grid formation, and you then take turns at trying to align your units such that they make offensive or defensive moves. Your end goal is to have your attacks go through all the enemy units and strike your enemy until his health reaches zero, while defending yourself from his attacks. You also have a special spell to help you, which varies from character to character, and it charges as you and your opponent takes damage.

You also collect artifacts throughout the campaign that help make you more powerful in battle, and when you collect them they are unlocked for use in multiplayer. These are mostly special upgrades that give you an extra advantage in special situations, which makes it easier to customize your tactics a bit.

Finally, you get to choose what units to bring into battle, with a few to choose from. You can bring up to five different units, with room for both normal units and more elite units. When these elite units die, they die permanently though, so if you lose them you have to buy new ones. You will easily be able to buy new ones though, so it's not really an issue, but it makes you care for them in a way you otherwise would not. Every victory then nets you and your units experience to help you level up and make you more powerful in various ways, and the game is good at making you feel like you have earned it. That goes for both the normal fights and the memorable boss fights where you are really challenged. 

Unfortunately the normal AI never feels like it is capable of doing more than keep you on your toes, and keeping you under pressure. So as long as you don't make any huge mistakes and make sure to take advantage of your opportunities, you won't have much of a problem with it... unless you try to battle enemies that are of a higher level than yourself, then it can get tricky. Some battles are simply annoying, because you don't really know what your objective is. You may have a target to hit, but because you don't know what that target will do or how it will move, trying to mount a proper attack can be frustrating until you learn what their pattern is.

The game also has a little trouble with pacing. Sometimes it is simply hard to see where the appropriate battles for you are, and you may end up grinding your way to your next level without really needing to. It is rarely an issue though, and will mostly only happen if you stray from the beaten path and try to explore your environments before the story leads you there.

None of this means the singleplayer campaign is bad though, by any means. There are a lot of variations on the gameplay, with battles that have specific criteria to be met before it is won. Capy has also made something they call battle puzzles, where you must beat your opponent using a very limited amount of moves. These puzzles can be quite tricky and require a very good understanding of the gameplay mechanics if you want to keep up with them as they come up in the campaign. They are completely optional though, so no need to worry. Despite the different variations in the gameplay, the game can get a bit repetitious by the end. You should easily get 20-25 hours of play going through the game, and over 30 hours of play in one playthrough if you go for both side quests and a few achievements, so it is natural that you get some repetition. These problems aside, the campaign is still great, and you will be glad that you follow it through to the end. And despite some repetition, the gameplay is still fun and feels very original. Capy has also built the game so that you can come back and complete side quests and collect artifacts in the campaign without needing to replay it, which is a welcome touch.

With the campaign alone, you are getting a lot of value for your money. When on top of that, you get an excellent multiplayer offering, the value goes through the roof. Where the AI might not be able to challenge you all that much, playing against another person completely changes that, making for even more exciting battles. And you can play both one on one or cooperative battles, where you are two players with your units mixed together, against two other players. You can play both online and offline, with or without artifacts and with or without a timer. The concept is fairly simple to grasp, so introducing your buddy to the game through multiplayer is not a problem, but it does take a little time to really 'get it'.

You can then level up with your online persona, where your level works as your online rank. You still have your more elite units in online play, but you cannot lose them like you can in the campaign. So instead of needing to buy new units, you get an experience penalty for losing them, which helps make you care for them just as you would in the campaign. The only thing the multiplayer is missing is the ability to play two players locally against two others online, because if you want to play with your friend locally, but not against each other, you have to play against the AI. But otherwise, the gameplay fits very well with multiplayer, and it is a smooth addition to what is already a great game. 

If you like either puzzles or strategy games, then Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is definitely a game you should give a try. It has great gameplay, great campaign, great multiplayer, and it is a fantastic value proposition.

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